Author’s Note: The author highly recommends reading Why We Are Not Emergent by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck.
Today, I was reading a book called Blue Like Jazz by a guy named Don Miller. About 100 pages into the book I came across this quote: “I don’t believe I will ever walk away from God for intellectual reasons. Who knows anything anyway?” After hearing the author admit that he didn’t know anything I tossed his book in the trash and lit a cigar. Then I sat down to write this column.
I wish I could say that Don Miller is just another author getting wealthy peddling a watered-down version of Christianity that appeals to people who want a little religion but have no desire to change their behavior. But Don Miller isn’t an isolated case. He’s part of the so-called Emergent Church movement that is making significant inroads among young Americans.
Rob Bell, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a good example of what passes for a leader in the Emergent Church movement. He assumes the position of a pastor, one I’ve always assumed is supposed to lead people to God, without any real idea of where he’s going. He says the following in one of his best-selling “Christian” books:
“Our words aren’t absolutes. Only God is absolute, and God has no intention of sharing this absoluteness with anything, especially words people have come up with to talk about him.”
Heartening, isn’t it? According to Miller, we can’t know anything. According to Bell, we can’t know anything about God because he won’t tell us with things like words. Go ahead and toss your Bible in the trash along with Blue like Jazz. It’s just a bunch of words from a bunch of people.
Brian McLaren, one of the best-selling authors and leaders of the Emergent Church movement, doesn’t seem to have many answers either. He once stated “I am no doubt wrong on many things. I am very likely wrong in my personal opinions on homosexuality.”
That’s weird. The Emergent Church guys pride themselves on being open-minded. But one of their leaders clings to one of his views even after he decides it is “very likely wrong.” That used to be called stubborn, or narrow-minded. Now it’s hip.
I’m not sure how many of these hip Emergent Church leaders have read Matthew 14:31 where Jesus asks Peter “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” My guess is that most of these guys like to doubt because being unsure of all things at all times guarantees they will never have to stand up for anything or risk offending anyone.
Of course, most people enjoy having some kind of destination, not to mention some idea of where they are right now. But not Rob Bell’s wife Kristen who said this: “I grew up thinking we’ve figured out the Bible, that we knew what it means. Now I have no idea what most of it means. And yet I feel like life is big again …”
At times, the leaders of the Emergent Church seem to want to do anything to postpone making a moral judgment. Brian McLaren once said, “Frankly, many of us don’t know what we should think about homosexuality. We’ve heard all sides, but no position has yet won our confidence so that we can say ‘it seems good to the Holy Spirit and us’ … Perhaps we need a five-year moratorium on making pronouncements … Then in five years, if we have clarity, we’ll speak; if not, we’ll set another five years for ongoing reflection.”
Personally, I hope Brian McLaren does decide to shut up for at least five years. That way, he won’t say anything as stupid as the following commentary on God’s decision to send Jesus to die on the Cross: “That just sounds like one more injustice in the cosmic equation. It sounds like divine child abuse. You know?”
It’s edgy. It’s provocative. It sells books. And it’s blasphemy. It’s the kind of blasphemy that can land a soul in hell.
But, if you’ll pardon the rhyme, Rob Bell doesn’t really believe in hell. He says “When people use the word hell, what do they mean? They mean a place, an event, a situation absent of how God desires things to be. Famine, debt, oppression, loneliness, despair, death, and slaughter – they are all hell on earth. What’s disturbing is when people talk more about hell after this life than they do about hell here and now.”
The Emergent Church is cool, isn’t it? No hell, no death, and no resurrection. Just really good coffee and really good dialogue with guys who really aren’t sure they know anything or ever can.
Actually, Brian McLaren does know something. He knows how to ridicule people who aren’t convergent with the Emergent: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, and if you don’t love God back and cooperate with God’s plans in exactly the prescribed way, God will torture you with unimaginable abuse, forever – that sort of thing.”
Above all, Don Miller and his friends in the Emergent Church want us to understand that Christianity is not about rules. It’s about a relationship. We don’t really know what the rules are and there’s no way God would want to share his “absoluteness” with “words” that could be used to form “propositions” which could result in “doctrine.”
This Sunday I’ve decided to take a friend to the local Emergent Church. I plan to steal from the offering plate, rape the pastor’s wife, and then kill anyone who gets in my way. Then, I’ll remind the congregation that Christianity is not about rules. It’s about a relationship with God. And one has nothing to do with the other.